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Dedicated top chefs adding flavour of Wales to a favourite foodie festival; A selection of Wales' top chefs are in London today cooking up local and seasonal produce al fresco in Regent's Park at an event dubbed the world's greatest restaurant festival. Sally Williams profiles Welsh food's fab four.

Byline: Sally Williams

CHEFS from all over the world are sharpening their knives in preparation for a unique outdoor food festival - joined by a select band from a small corner of Wales.

Monmouthshire will be flying the flag for Wales at the Taste of London food festival.

James Sommerin, of the Michelin-starred The Crown at Whitebrook, will take to the stage in Regent's Park, along with Shaun Hill of The Walnut Tree, near Abergavenny, and Matt Tebbutt, of The Foxhunter, Nantyderry.

Also appearing in the Welsh area of the park will be Denbighshire-born, Bryn Williams, chef patron of Odette's in London's Primrose Hill and the "face" of the Wales the True Taste Food & Drink Awards 2009/10.

Visitors will be able to watch top Welsh chefs in action as they demonstrate their culinary skills using Welsh ingredients at the Wales the True Taste pavilion.

James Sommerin, who is also executive chef at the Celtic Manor, Newport, will be kicking the event off today on behalf of Wales, with a surf and turf meal of Welsh beef combined with fresh skate wings.

"I've never cooked in a park al fresco before but I'm looking forward to it," he said.

"The beef will be thinly sliced, with capers, balsamic vinegar, scallops and smoked bacon.

"I was asked along to the event following a cookery demonstration I did at Hay Festival - it is a follow-on from that. I'm hoping we can entice some food fans from London to come to Wales." Even though Wales is well known for its harvest of cockles from Gower, London diners eat more of them than Welsh foodies, according to Matt Tebbutt of the Foxhunter, who will take to the stage tomorrow..

"I will be cooking sewin, which is sea trout that is in season right now, with cockles and lamb - I think Londoners will love that," he said.

"Strangely enough many Welsh cockles end up in restaurants in London and most of our cockles are exported to Spain, for the top restaurants in Barcelona.

"The result is that it is becoming increasingly difficult for Welsh restaurants to get a local supply.

"The same is true to a certain extent for lobster. We try to source it from Wales but more often than not we have to go to Devon or Cornwall. But when Welsh lobster does come in it is fab.

"For sewin, we often have to rely on local anglers. It will be good to see so many chefs and producers from Wales making it up there with the best chefs in

London. And visitors to the park will get the chance to taste great food that maybe they wouldn't be able to afford or be prepared to join a top restaurant waiting list for.

"Most of our chefs are from Monmouthshire, which is only a two-hour drive from London and is already seeing a growth in foodie tourism." A number of Welsh producers will be taking part in the event under the auspices of the Welsh Assembly Government's True Taste brand. They are: Halen Mn, Breconshire Brewery, Beef Direct, Trealy Farm Charcuterie, Elwy Valley Welsh Lamb, Bacheldre Watermill, Gower Cottage Brownies, Celtic Crabs, Grosvenor Bakery, The Pudding Compartment, Kid Me Not, and Carmarthenshire Cheese Company..

Taking part too will be goat's milk confectioner and cheesemaker Kid Me Not and the Carmarthenshire Cheese Company.

Mike Morgan of Llansantffraed Court Hotel will conduct a masterclass in pairing Welsh wine with True Taste Award-winning produce.

Visitors will have the opportunity to taste sparkling wine from Monnow Valley, Pinot Chardonnay from Penarth Vineyard and cider from Gwynt y Ddraig, as well as sample award-winning cheeses including Gorwydd Caerphilly, Celtic Promise, and Perl Las.

Beer lovers will also have a treat as Justin Buster Grant, Breconshire Brewery's head brewer de-mystifies the art of brewing, and shows what Wales has to offer..

Star performers James Sommerin attained his first Michelin star in 2007. He is patriotic about Welsh lamb and beef and says he would never consider using anything else. He represents Wales in BBC2's Great British Menu for homecoming troops from Afghanistan.

Matt Tebbutt believes the art of foraging is making a comeback in the nation's woods and hedgerows. He has appeared in the Great British Menu and uses Welsh gourmet treats such as porcini mushrooms and wild garlic. He trained under Marco Pierre White.

Shaun Hill took over the Walnut Tree in 2008. His food was always in high demand when he was cooking at the Merchant House, the restaurant he owned for 11 years with his wife, Anja, in Ludlow, Shropshire, and before that at Gidleigh Park, Chagford, Devon, where he was head chef for nine years.

Both restaurants won a Michelin star.

Bryn Williams serves inimitable modern British cuisine at Odette's using the finest products from Wales.

He has worked under Marco Pierre White and Michel Roux.

In 2006 Bryn won the Great British Menu and went on to cook for the Queen's Birthday Banquet. He appears regularly on the BBC's Saturday Kitchen, UKTV's Market Kitchen, BBC productions and Welsh TV shows..


PERFECTIONIST: James Sommerin of the Crown at Whitebrook. 'I'm hoping we can entice some food fans from London to come to Wales,' he says PICTURE: Andrew James [umlaut]
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Publication:Western Mail (Cardiff, Wales)
Geographic Code:4EUUK
Date:Jun 18, 2009
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